One of the major objectives of stable management is the maintenance of good health and the prevention of disease. To ensure this, the horse owner or manager must have a close relationship with the stock and have a regular routine so that changes in the mood, attitude, posture etc. of any individual animal will warn of impending problems. Hence, there must be a daily routine which is developed to suit the requirements of the stable, for example, a racing stable would need a certain kind of routine, a riding school another, and a ranch, yet another. This has been touched on above.

We shall deal with the daily routine in more detail below, but there are a number of problems peculiar to our part of the world that requires attention.

Tick Control

This is part of grooming, a daily activity, during which the animal is checked for ticks, which, if present, are removed and killed. Once a week or more frequently if necessary, tick-grease should be applied to susceptible areas – the eyes, tail, sheath, udder, heels, ears etc. Further tick control, using spraying or dipping, should be carried out weekly or fortnightly. Any spray or dip used should be of a reputable brand, prescribed for use with horses and diluted according to the directions. Dipping or spraying, using wrong dilutions, may be injurious to the horse or will only accelerate the immunity of ticks to the solution being used.

Control of Feet

Stockholm tar should be applied twice a week during wet weather and once a week during the dry to protect the feet from thrush. Some managers mix old engine oil with the Stockholm tar, since the oil is good for the foot and provides a way of economising with the Stockholm tar.


This is done every three months during the dry season, and every 6 – 8 weeks during the rains. The medication should be varied each time to reduce the parasite’s chance of becoming immune to the preparation, and to cover various kinds of worm. New horses should be wormed immediately on entering the stables. Paddocks should be rotated so that they do not become over-grazed, and the dropping, becomes stale. Worm medication can be given as a dosage mixed with food at normal feed time. It may be tubed or given as a paste on the feed.


Flies become a problem after winter, and the usual remedy is spraying. This is effective, but other, less expensive measures should also be taken. Fly bait may be used, especially in those areas where flies are most prevalent, around drains etc.

Barrels that contain a smouldering fire are useful, for they deter the flies by day and the mosquitoes by night. A mixture of citronella and baby oil may be applied to the horse’s head and legs to keep the flies away.


This is a suggested order in which tasks can be completed starting first thing in the morning. Common sense will determine when the routine should be varied.

  • The horses should first be inspected, the manager walking round each stable to see that all is well;
    • The horses should be given fresh water, and then given their morning feed in the stables while the meal is completed;
    • Mucking out begins by removing manure and wet patches, leaving the bed down so that the horse will not slip on the floor;
    • Grooming should be thorough since this is the main grooming of the day (sometimes the only grooming). This will be dealt with in more detail below;
    • The horse, having been given water, fed and groomed should either be put out in a paddock to graze or exercised/worked;
    • After work/exercise, the horse should be put into a paddock where there is no water while it cools down, and the sweat marks are removed;
    • While the horse is out of the stable, the bedding should be put up around the walls, leaving the floor to dry. If the horse has a mid-day feed, the bedding should be put down again before the horse enters the stable. Any droppings should be removed after the feed;
    • Before evening, the bedding should be freshened up, hay net filled and the water replenished;
    • When the horse enters the stable, before the evening feed, a light grooming might be given. It is important to pick out the feet and administer Stockholm Tar if require;
    • The evening feed should be given at about 5. Before leaving the stables, water buckets should be filled, manure might be removed and the horse observed to see that it is eating and seems well. If needed, a blanket should be put on the horse; and
    • Last thing at night, before the manager retires, the horses should be checked to see that all is well.

Reasons for grooming:

  • It promotes health by removing dirt and excreta, stimulating circulation and improving muscle tone;
    • It maintains condition;
    • It prevents disease;
    • It ensures cleanliness; and
    • It improves appearance.

Grooming Tools

Hoof-pick: This is for picking out the feet and should be used at least once a day;

Dandy-Brush: This brush removes heavy dirt, caked mud and tick dust. It should be used carefully on thin-skinned horses like Thoroughbreds. It should never be used on the head, mane or tail;

Body-Brush: Dust, scurf and grease may be removed from the coat and mane with the body-brush;

Curry-Brush: (rubber) Used with the body-brush. The body-brush in the left hand and the curry brush in the right;

Water-Brush: Used for laying the mane and tail;

Mane-Brush: This is used for pulling manes, (thinning them, often for showing purposes). It may be used for detangling manes and tails. This tool should be used carefully: too much hair should not be removed;

Stable rubber: A pad of cloth for giving the coat a final polish. Sponges: Damped and used to clean eyes, nose and dock;

Sweat scraper: This is used to remove excess sweat; and

Whisp: Used to promote circulation and muscle tone.

Grooming Method

Pick horse’s feet out, working from the heel towards the toe, putting picked out materials on a sack or into a container. Use a curry comb to remove sweat and night-soil marks from horse’s body. Begin at the top of the neck on the near-side, and work down the body using a circular movement to bring dirt to the surface. Never use the curry comb on the bony parts of the horse’s body. Use the dandy- brush to remove dirt from the horse’s legs. Use body-brush with the metal curry comb to clean the coat, beginning at the poll and working downwards. Every 4 – 5 strokes clean the brush with the curry comb and tap the curry comb on the ground to clean it. Use the body brush to clean the horse’s head and face, and then move to the mane and tail. Brush the mane and tail a few locks at a time. If  a whisp is being used, it should be dampened and used with a bang to tone up muscles. This should be done on muscular parts like the neck, thighs and quarters. A whisp is often made by plaiting pieces of hay or straw. Sponges are moistened and used gently to clean the eyes, the nostrils and under the tail. It is usual to use a special sponge for the area around the tail. Sponges should be cleaned after use.

Lay or flatten the mane with a dampened water brush, and then use the same brush to neaten the tail, starting at the top. A stable rubber is then used, beginning with one side of the face and moving right round the horse to the other side, removing the last traces of dust, and giving a polish to the coat. Finally, the horse’s hooves may be given a light coating of oil to improve the appearance and the condition of the feet. A thorough grooming should take about 45 minutes of steady work.


Clipping: When winter approaches, some horses grow long, hairy coats. These thick coats are hard to groom and keep clean, and the horse may lose condition through heavy sweating. If the horse is to be worked through the winter, it should be clipped. For this, one needs electrical clippers and an experienced attendant. There are various degrees to which a horse may be clipped and various types of clip. A full clip is where the whole coat is shortened. The hunter clip (probably the most popular) leaves a patch of longer hair where the saddle fits, and longer hair on the legs to protect the horse from cold. The hunter clip may also include cutting the hair under the saddle. The blanket clip is where hair is trimmed from the neck and belly, leaving longer hair in the shape of a blanket. Such a

clip is suitable for a horse that does very light work. A trace clip is where the belly and the tops of the legs are clipped. It is used widely among ponies that live out during the winter.

Method of Clipping

The horse should be put into a well-lit loose-box, and should be allowed to become accustomed to the sound of the clippers. While this is going on, mark out with chalk, the shape of the desired clip, ensuring that it is symmetric. Clip against the coat in long sweeps. If the horse is sweating, stop clipping until it stops. If the clippers get hot, and they will, stop and let them cool. Keep the electrical lead out of the horse’s reach. Stop clipping to remove hair and oil the blades. Do not clip the ears,  the fetlocks, the heels, the whiskers or cat-hairs; be especially careful when cutting ticklish or sensitive parts of the horse. After clipping, the horse will need a blanket at night.

Maintenance of the Mane: The mane should be short and thin. The mane should not be cut: it should pulled (see above, under mane-comb). A short, thin mane makes for easier grooming and a clean, easily managed horse. Pull the mane when the horse is hot (when cold, the pores are closed and pulling can hurt). Pull the longest hairs first, pulling a few at a time. Wind a few hairs round the comb and, with a firm downward tug on the comb, pull the hairs from the mane. Carry on down the mane until the mane is shortened and thinned. It is usual to treat a mane over the course of a few days, until the right length and thickness has been achieved. A mane should be between 10 and 15 cm long (4 to 6 inches).

Some manes are difficult to manage, and an alternative is to hog the mane, that is, to cut it off completely. This is done to polo horses to stop the mane impeding the player while the game is in progress. Plaiting the mane is done for showing or racing, giving a neat appearance to the neck.

It is sometimes done for cosmetic purposes, to remedy a neck that is too thin or has some other defect. The method is to first dampen the mane and divide it into equal parts the forelock being one part, and an odd number (9, 11 or 13) for the mane. Plait as far as the length of mane will allow, roll the plait, and secure the plait in a ball shape either by sewing with appropriately coloured thread, or by using small elastic bands. If the plaits are big and bunchy, this shows that the mane has not been pulled sufficiently.

Maintenance of the Tail: This may be pulled at the top to improve the appearance and to show off the quarters. The tail should always be pulled from underneath, never on top. Pulling a tail may be risky, for the horse is ticklish in this area and may kick out. However, a plaited tail is essential for serious showing, and does not deprive the horse of the use of its tail. To plait, the tail is dampened with the water brush. A little hair is taken from the top of the tail, one piece from each side of the tail. Use these pieces to begin the plait, and then select the next two side pieces to continue the plait until about two thirds of the dock has been plaited. At this stage, a long pig-tail can be formed, secured by stitching or elastic band, looped up to the end of the original plait and secured there in a loop. A banged tail is one that has been cut off straight at the end. A switch tail is one that has been cut to a point.


Blankets: Night rugs are used in the stable during the cold season, particularly for thoroughbreds. The night rug is made of jute and lined with woollen material held in place by a circingle, a strap that passes round the horse’s middle. When using the rug, always place it high on the horse’s  withers, and pull it backwards so that the natural lie of the horse’s coat is not upset. Sweat-rugs are made of open mesh cotton, and are used to stop horses catching a cold after an event in which it has raised a heavy sweat.

Boots: These are used to protect the horse’s legs from injury. Brushing boots protects the inside of the legs from being kicked by the opposite foot during the horse’s action. Over-reach boots protect the heel of the front feet from being kicked by the hind feet. Knee boots protect the knee when a horse is jumping. Another use for boots is to assist in treatment by supporting hurt tendons or by keeping a poultice in place.


Stable Bandages: These are to keep parts of the leg warm and encourage circulation. They are made of flannel, and should be fitted from just below the knee to the coronet. They must not be too tight, and should never be used when exercising the horse.

Exercise Bandages: This is used for the horse in work, and is made of crepe or stockingette. They are used to support an injury to tendons or to protect the leg from injury. They are narrower than stable bandages, and should have padding of cotton wool or gamgee beneath them. They fit tightly from just below the knee to just above the fetlock. The ends are tapered so that they can be fitted neatly.

Bandages for Treatment: Poultice bandages are used in the treatment of sprained tendons. They keep the poultice in place over the sprain. Cold water bandages are used to reduce heat in a leg. They are made of flannel, and are fitted to the leg after being dipped in water. Sweat bandages are used to reduce swelling or water on the knee. The method is to soak the bandage in hot or cold water, cover it with polythene, and put a stable bandage over it to keep it in place on the horse. Pressure bandages are used to reduce wind-galls and other swellings. They are made of stockingette, used over gamgee or cotton wool. They are applied tightly with an even pressure over the whole of the leg.

Tail Bandage: This is used to protect the tail while the horse is travelling and to improve the appearance of the tail after washing. This ensures that the hairs of the tail lie down. Tail bandages should not be left on all night, and should be removed by grasping the bandage above the tail and sliding it off.

Clothing for Travelling: The picture below shows a poll guard, rug or sweat rug, stable bandages or travelling boots, knee boots, hock boots, tail bandage and tail guard.


Care of the horse’s hooves is of primary importance – no horse can be used without having sound feet. The hooves should receive attention every day when they are inspected and picked out. Every 4

  • 6 weeks further attention is required, when the hooves should be rasped. Hooves grow strong during the hot, wet season, and more slowly during the winter months. If the hoof is allowed to grow too long, the horn will crack, causing of unsoundness which could cause the horse to stumble. The hoof takes between 9 and 15 months to grow from top to bottom, and about one ninth of the hoof should be rasped off each month. Farm horses and Basuto Ponies have hard feet. They will probably not need shoeing. Unshod horses need to have their hooves rasped regularly, just as people trim their finger and toe nails. Horses used in competition – Polo ponies, Thoroughbreds etc. – need to be shod since their feet are generally softer.


The basic tools are hoof cutter, drawing knife and rasp. The hoof cutter is used to reduce the over-growth of the hoof wall. The drawing knife is used to trim the wall and to remove dead parts of the sole and frog, being careful not to take too much material from the latter parts. The rasp is used to provide the

foot with a level bearing surface, smoothing it off so that the wall and the frog just touch the ground as the horse’s weight bears on the foot.


There are two types of shoeing: hot shoeing and cold shoeing. Hot shoeing is preferred, because it enables the shoe to be fitted to the hoof more exactly than is

the case with cold shoeing, in which the shoe cannot be reshaped.

Reasons for shoeing

The reasons for shoeing are the protection of the hoof if the horse is ridden or used over a hard rough surface or is used for road work. Shoes help prevent slipping when a horse is

competing, for example, when it is being jumped. Shoeing is used to aid healing after a hoof has split or been diseased (e.g. after seedy toe).

Surgical shoeing may be effected following such disorders as laminitis or navicular disease.

Reasons for leaving a horse unshod

  • If there is no farrier available;
    • Shoeing is an expense;
    • If a horse is being rested, it may be left unshod to give the hoof a rest from shoeing and to allow the nail holes to grow out;
    • An unshod horse will do less damage than a shod one should it kick;
    • During the rains when the ground is soft, shoeing should not be necessary; and
    • A horse may be partially shod. In this case the front hooves are shod, offering the horse partial protection.

Hot Shoeing

Additional equipment required: pincers, buffer, hammer, pritchel and anvil.

Method of hot shoeing

Remove   the   old   shoe   using   the   buffer,   and   the   shoeing   hammer.   Cut    off    the    clenches (this is where the nails have been turned over on the hoof), and then lever the shoe off.

The hoof is prepared by trimming as described above.

The forging of the shoe is usually not necessary since most farriers today use ready-made shoes. The fitting is done when the shoe is red hot. It is then carried to the foot on a pritchel held against the foot and note is taken of the adjustments that are needed. Such adjustments are carried out on the anvil. Once a correct fit has been obtained, the shoe is cooled by immersion in water.

The shoe is then nailed, starting at the toe. The nail is inserted in the area between the wall and the white line. If the nail is too close to the white line lameness will occur. There should be three nails on the inside and four on the outside.

Nails should emerge about 4 cm (1,5 inches) up the hoof. The end of the nail should be twisted off, and the end of the hoof turned over to provide a clench. The clenches should be in a line across the hoof.

Finishing is completed by smoothing the clenches with a rasp and tapped down.

The rasp is then run round the lower edge of the wall to reduce the risk of cracking. No dumping of the foot should be seen (a condition that occurs when a foot is rasped down to fit a shoe that is too small). It is also important to avoid over rasping, since this removes the hoof’s protective coat, and exposes the horn, making it susceptible to cracks.


Cold shoeing is not recommended because the shoe cannot be adjusted to fit the characteristics of the foot exactly, and the nail holes tend to be in the same place each time the horse is shod. Only the slightest adjustments can be made to the shoe.

The procedure is much the same as for hot shoeing. Obviously, care should be taken to get the best fit from the ready-made shoes, and the foot must not be made ‘boxy’ or dumped.


The plain stamped shoe: This is made from a bar of iron, shaped and stamped out with nail holes. It can be provided with a toe clip, and is used on horses engaged in slow work.

The Hunter Shoe: This is used for horses engaged in fast work – polo ponies, show jumpers or regularly used hacks. It is made of narrower iron than the plain shoe, and the surface has been grooved to provide a better footing than the plain shoe affords. The ends of the shoe are smoothed off and tapered to reduce the chances of the horse cutting itself on the shoe edges. It may have toe clip and quarter clips at the back to keep the shoe on.

Racing Plates: These are very thin, light-weight shoes, made of aluminum. They are fullered (grooved, and tapered off at the ends).

Surgical Shoes: These are dealt with in the lecture on veterinary care.


Most vices arise from boredom. Regular work or exercise and long periods of grazing are essential. It is important to ensure that horses’ stables face interesting things wherever possible.

Crib-biting and wind-sucking

These two are usually associated. Crib-biting is the habit of grabbing the edge of the stable door, manger or other convenient object between the teeth and gulping down air with a grunt. Bad crib-biters will even practice the habit while in a paddock, grabbing at the rail of the fence while gulping air. A wind-sucking horse will arch its neck and gulp down air without needing to bite anything. Crib-biting must be treated as a serious vice for it causes flatulence and colic, impairs digestion

and often prevents the horse from putting on condition. The habit may damage the incisors, preventing effective grazing. These vices are extremely difficult if not impossible to cure, and constitute a telling reason for not buying a horse that shows signs of them. In acute forms, they will make a horse ill. Moreover, the habit is copied by other horses if a crib-biting horse is brought into a stable. If there is a crib-biting horse, it should be, so far as possible, isolated from the rest. The habit is caused through boredom – lack of exercise or change of scenery – lack of bulk in food or irritation of the stomach, which may cause a specific craving and the need for a horse to begin crib-biting. The remedy is to prevent boredom by keeping the horse out grazing while it is not in use and avoid leaving it in the stables during the day. If, for some reason, the horse must be confined during the day, be sure that there is a well-filled hay-net available. The stable door edge may be painted with anti-bite mixtures of various sorts – for example bitter aloes. The horse should not be tied up. A chunk of salt rock should be always available. Plenty of bulk food and water should be  given. Another remedy is to have a broad leather strap around the neck which will stop the neck muscles from contracting, thus preventing air from being sucked down the throat.


The condition takes the form of a continuous swaying of the front legs associated with a similar swaying of the head. Weavers tend to deteriorate in condition: in severe cases, the horse may become lame. The condition starts as a habit and becomes a vice, which is a form of a nervous disease. No horse that weaves can be considered as sound, and the condition is sufficient to spoil an otherwise ideal animal. The causes are boredom or nervousness. The condition may be copied from other horses. The remedies include the prevention of boredom by being exercised and put out to graze as much as possible. Inside the stable, there should be a salt lick and plenty of hay to eat. A well-bedded loose box will encourage the horse to lie down. In more severe cases, car tyres can be hung on each side of the stable door so that the horse bumps its head when it begins to weave. In a large stable, the horses that tend to weave should be fed first because awaiting food encourages weaving.

Stable Kicking

This condition includes stamping and pawing the ground. It is caused through boredom and irritability, impatience while waiting to be fed, parasites, lack of sufficient bedding or it may be a symptom of colic. Remedies include keeping the horse out of the stable as much as possible, keeping it well exercised and feeding it early. The door may be padded, and should certainly be flat on the inside so that the horse will not catch its hoof on the door. If the horse is able to make a noise in the stable, it is likely to continue to do so, since it enjoys it. A deep bed may be given to prevent pawing and stamping.

If the condition is caused by colic, it should be treated (this will be dealt with in a later lecture), and parasites should be eliminated.


This is caused by mismanagement in the stable, especially roughness when grooming, saddling-up etc., the regular feeding of tit-bits to the horse, or the allowing of snapping and nipping when the horse was young.

The remedy is firmness and kindness – careful grooming and handling of the horse in the stable. The horse may be tied up for grooming. Biting must be punished and one sharp whack should be administered directly after the bite, which is all that should be given. The horse should not be struck about the head in the stable.

Eating of bedding and droppings

The cause is boredom, lack of bulk in the food, lack of mineral salts (see lecture on feeding), or  severe worm infestation. The remedies arise from the causes: feed more bulk, give a salt lick, keep the horse out as much as possible and keep it exercised, mix new bedding with old bedding, change the type of bedding and sprinkle bedding with disinfectant. A more severe remedy is to use a muzzle on the horse.


This is caused by fear in a young horse. In an old horse, it is caused by knowing that by pulling, he will probably get away. The remedy is avoidance. The horse should not be tied up or left unattended unless restrained in the stable.

Blanket or bandage tearing

This may be caused by boredom or it may be skin disease causing irritation. The blanket may have been put on incorrectly or bandages have been applied too tightly.

The remedies are to fit blankets and bandages correctly, check for and treat skin disease, provide a salt lick and hay so that the horse has something to chew on all the time.


Some horses are difficult to box. It is useless to try to force a reluctant horse into the box and a great deal of patience is required. If a horse is easy to box, do nothing to make it afraid of boxing. There  are various methods of dealing with the recalcitrant horse. Do not, however, wait until the day of a show to try them out.

Practice before, and get the horse used to a method that seems easiest. The following are hints that should prove helpful:

  • Load the difficult horse directly after one that loads easily;
    • Tempt the horse with a handful of cubes or some other delicacy;
    • Cover loading ramp with straw;
    • Place box so that the angle of the ramp is not too great;
    • As the horse loads, use a pole or a lunging rein behind it to prevent it from coming back off the ramp; and
    • Never stand directly behind the horse.

It may help to lift the horse’s front feet, one after the other, moving forward up the ramp. The pole or lunging rein behind is helpful, and one each side of the ramp can prevent the horse running sideways.

A twitch may be used. This is a piece of wood, like an axe handle, with a loop of rope threaded through one end. This loop can be placed round the upper lip and nose of the horse, and twisted until it is tight. This is a severe measure that may have ill effects. A twitch should certainly never be left on for too long, as it restricts the circulation.